Pushing Presence: 5 Ways for Labor Companions to Stay Present In the Delivery Room

Expressing awe is sometimes subtle – the way you gaze at someone, the smile on your face, how you act. Other times it’s overt – writing a note or telling someone how you think they’re amazing. It’s important to tell mothers that you are in awe of them – all they’ve been through (especially in a difficult pregnancy), all they’re going through (especially in a difficult birth), and all they’re going to do (as a future mother).

Just as mothers need to feel your awe during labor, babies and kids need to feel it as they grow up. Marveling at them and all their incredible accomplishments – learning how to walk and talk, use a fork, help people out, or act like a sweet big brother or sister – makes them feel special and loved.

4. A loving sense of humor

Although the delivering of a baby is probably one of the most serious things in the world, a sweet and gentle sense of humor can infuse the experience with even more joy and love. When someone is in labor for hours, is in extreme pain, or has nervous energy, humor lightens things up and brings partners closer together. Whether the iPod gets stuck on Michael Jackson for five hours straight, you have loud gas, or the patient in the next room is moaning like a dead raccoon, it’s important to chuckle at times.

Humor is essential for parenting too – being able to laugh at the way a kitchen looks after dinner with two toddlers, changing your shirt three times before work from spit up, diaper cream, and applesauce, or your baby waking up twelve times in a single night. So many parenting situations call for laughter or tears, with laughter being preferable.

5. Ability to identify and express your own feelings

 Although it may seem like ignoring your own feelings to focus on the mother’s would make you more present, the opposite is true. It’s a lot easier to stay connected with another person when you’re honest about how you are feeling. Sharing your own feelings opens up space for the mother to express hers. By acknowledging that you’re scared, you make it okay for the mother to express her own fear. By sharing your excitement, you invite the mother to talk about her own.

Parenting babies and young children can be intense, nonstop, and challenging. Sorting out your own feelings and dealing with them on a regular basis is paramount to being a good parent. If you ignore them, you can tend toward reactionary, screamy, snappy, stressed-out, or short responses to your kids and their behavior. If you’re aware of your feelings, you’re more likely to act consciously and mindfully. Savoring the happy, fun times by discussing them with your partner at the end of the night or writing about them in a journal can help you maintain perspective.

Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD, mom to three,  is a counselor for individuals and couples in Chicago's western suburbs. (www.erinleyba.com) Read more about mindful parenting at www.parenthappy.org


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